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Phraates IV (c. 38 - 2 B.C.)

ΦΡΑΑΤΗΣ

Phraates IV was the second heir to Orodes II, named to succeed his father in the wake of his brother Pacorus I's death. See the genealogy chart.

After murdering his father, Phraates purged his brothers and their families. Artavasdes of Media, a Parthian noble also under threat from Phraates, fled to the west, and in 36 B.C. successfully appealed to Mark Antony to back him as a rival claimant. Antony led a force of 100,000 men into Parthia, but his overconfident leadership resulted in defeat and the loss of 35,000 men.

A few years later, Phraates became embroiled in a civil war with usurper Tiridates I. Initially forced to flee Parthia, Phraates regrouped his forces and re-invaded, and eventually forced Tiridates to seek refuge among the Romans. Tiridates took with him a hostage son of Phraates who Augustus later exchanged in 20 B.C. for the Roman legionary standards captured from Crassus' legions at Carrhae in 53 B.C., Saxa in 40 B.C. and Marc Anthony in 36 B.C. Tiridates returned a few years later for another attempt, forcing Phraates to once again seek safety. But Tiridates was likely killed during the last of his several attempts to overthrow Phraates as his name disappears from the historical record after 25 B.C.

Also included in the exchange was the gift to Phraates of a slave girl named Musa, by whom he had a son, Phraataces. In time this concubine became Phraates' queen. In 10 B.C., she persuaded the king to send his own sons to Rome for their safety. Cleared of any rivals to her son, she poisoned Phraates in 2 B.C., and Phraataces succeeded his father to the throne.

While the tetradrachms below are attributed to Phraates IV, it may not be all of them. Francois de Callataÿ's important 1994 die study1 has supplanted Sellwood and Shore by proving that, of the tetradrachms attributed by Sellwood to Tiridates, only types S55.7-9 are Tiridates. The remainder (S55.1-6 and S55.10-14) are Phraates IV. This also means all coins in Shore2 attributed to Tiridates are Phraates IV. However, this arrangement does not satisfactorily explain the absence of the royal wart from the tetradrachms of Phraates IV. The prominence of the wart on the other issues of Phraates IV (S50 through S54) leads us to wonder: if the S55.1-6 and S55.10-14 issues belong to Phraates IV, where is the wart?

Click here to view the inscriptions on this king's coins.

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Notes:
1. de Callataÿ, Les tétradrachmes d'OrodèsII et de Phraate IV (1994)
2. Shore. Parthian Coins and History (1993), coins 306-311.

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Coins Attributed to Phraates IV

The attributions and cataloging of Parthian coins used throughout this web site follow David Sellwood's An Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia (1980, 2nd edition) for consistency. The few exceptions to this policy are explained here.

Click on links to view the coins:

Sellwood Type 50

Sellwood Type 50

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Sellwood, "The 'Victory' Drachms of Phraates IV" Type 6 [Sellwood 50.15]

 

Sellwood Type 51

Sellwood Type 51

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Sellwood Type 51 (continued)

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Sellwood Type 52

Sellwood Type 52

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Sellwood Type 52 (continued)

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Sellwood Type 53

Sellwood Type 53

Page 1

Sellwood Type 54

Sellwood Type 54

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This page last updated 26 Feb 2021

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